Life Lessons from Cool Runnings

Friday nights typically mean “Family Movie Night” and pizza (eggplant mini pizzas for me!) around our house. This past Friday, it was my turn to pick the movie so we searched through all the movies from my childhood on Disney Plus. I picked Cool Runnings, the early 90s movie about the Jamaican Bobsled team. I hadn’t seen it in at least 20 years, but remembered that my siblings and I loved it. Actually, I have a very vivid memory of watching it the Henderson’s house, our dear family friends. It was fun uncovering that memory of childhood!

Right off the bat, Mateo loved the movie because of the ridiculous potty humor! He is a nine-year-old boy through and through. His hysterical laughter got the rest of us giggling over the silliness of it all. Midway through the movie, Sienna exclaimed, “Wait! This is in our movies to see before you grow up book!” “Oh, you’re right!” I replied. Years ago we picked up this very fun little book at our favorite (now closed) bookstore in Seaport Village called Upstart Crow: 101 Movies to See Before You Grow Up. It’s been fun to check off the movies we’ve seen and consult the book to help us choose good films for Movie Night.

I’d forgotten what great messages are conveyed in Cool Runnings. Without giving away the entire movie, the first wonderful message is of forgiveness as the main character, Derice and another sprinter, named Yul Brenner (!) forgive their competitor that accidentally fell and tripped them, causing all three men not to qualify for the Olympics. They decide to use their sprinting ability to form the first ever Jamaican Bobsled team, along with Derice’s best friend (and champion pushcart driver) Sanka.

The team faces a lot of adversity as they select a coach, played by John Candy, who was disgraced twenty years earlier for cheating at the Olympics. He’s ostracized by the bobsledding community, so the team receives a hostile welcome when they arrive in Canada for the Calgary Olympics. One of the teammates poignantly acknowledges a painful truth when he says, “We’re different. People are always afraid of what’s different.”

My favorite moment in the movie brought tears to my eyes. Derice is asking his coach about the cheating scandal, the night before their final heat in the Olympics.

Irv: You wanna know why I cheated, right?

Derice Bannock: Yes, I do.

Irv: That’s a fair question. It’s quite simple, really. I had to win. You see, Derice, I’d made winning my whole life. And when you make winning your whole life, you have to keep on winning, no matter what. You understand that?

Derice Bannock: No, I don’t understand. You won two gold medals. You had it all.

Irv: Derice, a gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without one, you’ll never be enough with one.

Derice Bannock: Hey, coach… how will I know if I’m enough?

Irv: When you cross that finish line tomorrow, you’ll know.

Without giving away the ending, this exchange foreshadows the emotionally charged conclusion of their race. When Irv said of the gold medal, “But if you’re not enough without one, you’ll never be enough with one,” Mateo asked me, “What does that mean?” I knew this could be significant for him, this child that always wants to do the right thing. “Well, it means that your worth shouldn’t be determined by what you accomplish,” I replied. He nodded slowly and I knew this was just a seed being planted, rather than a huge life lesson being learned.

Who knew so many life lessons could be wrapped up in a film about bobsledding! Have you seen Cool Runnings? If not (or not recently), it’s definitely worth a viewing, especially with kids. Although you may have to endure some toilet humor for awhile after!

2 thoughts on “Life Lessons from Cool Runnings”

  1. I loved this post! So many lessons and lots of fun along the way! I also love that you have a book that allows you to check off the movies you watch as a family – that’s awesome!! xoxo

  2. Nikky and I love this movie!! If a text goes unanswered for too long, the standard check in is “ Hey Mon, you daid?” 🤣🤣🤣 Good to know where to find and watch it again – it’s been many years. Thanks for this!

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